Are Muslims the new Catholics? Ben Railton, Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Fitchburg State University, joins us to discuss the historical parallels he recently documented at Talking Points Memo, between centuries of anti-Catholic sentiment in the U.S. and today's similarly toxic political rhetoric regarding Muslims.
2016 GOP Presidential candidate Ben Carson's recent assertions that a Muslim must "renounce Islam" before he'd consider them qualified to be President of the United States is just one example that echoes a similar sentiment about Catholics earlier in this country's history.
"It can seem like something 19th century, something really distant, but as recently as half a century ago, there was a pretty sustained debate in our mainstream political media, our body politic" Railton tells me, "of the genuine concern on behalf of many that any Catholic — including John F. Kennedy, the candidate for President — would owe a first allegiance not to anything within the United States, not to America, not to the American government or the American people, but to that entity, that foreign scary place, the Vatican and the Pope and the Catholic Church".
"Many of the fears that are directed at Muslim-Americans and Muslim communities are directed at the idea of these communities and their customs and beliefs, themselves representing an internal threat," he explains, while going on to remind us that, even with a well-established Muslim community in the U.S. at its founding ("We have Muslim-American communities going back to the Revolutionary Era…so fears of religious 'others' do date back to the very beginning"), this country's Constitutional framers determined there would be no religious test for the highest office in the land.
Railton's message is ultimately a very an encouraging one — we have, it seems, finally moved beyond our fear of a Papal takeover in this country, after all, so we are likely to do the same with Muslims — but is that historic comparison an appropriate analogue given the threat so many feel of an actual hostile takeover by Islamic extremists? We discuss.
Finally today, as ironic as it might be, the best news of all may well come from Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report. How often does that happen?!…
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